We're taking a bit of a breather while the world rearranges its underpants. Meanwhile, the other blog is here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The bald-headed end of the broom

"I'll be asking you to do a letter for me later,"

T.Aldous told Maisie at the beginning of the working day as he left for parts unknown.

"It's quite urgent. How long do you think it would take you?"

"It depends. I can probably get it done while you're out and have it ready for you."

"I need to get some more details. I'll sort it out with you when I'm back."

So he gets back and an hour after his arrival he drifts over to Maisie to tell her what he wants in the letter. Sort of.

"I'll just give Warner a ring to find out what he wants putting there..."

He says, scribbling out a passage of text. This is repeated a few times, including one time when he comes back saying:

"Kara says that Warner likes square bullet points."

One last time he says that he'll need to check on details and disappears into his office. For the next half hour Maisie goes over every so often to see if he's off the 'phone yet.

"Go home," I suggest.

"Oh, I can't leave him in the lurch," replies Maisie.

"But he's left you up Shit Creek. Why are you worrying about leaving him in the lurch?"

"Ooh no, I couldn't."

One last time she goes over to his office and is appalled to find he's gone.

"Did you see him go out?"

"No. He's not been past this way. Has he gone into Policy Team's room?"

Yes he has. And the door's closed with a "Meeting in progress. Do not disturb" sign on the door.

"I'm off home," says Maisie.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Getting silly

Hetty emails me about password permissions at Catty Library.

"... seems not to be able to do as much as the new girl."

I copy the permissions for the two passwords involved and send it to Hetty without comment.

If they've time on their hands I'll have to engineer some work for them to do.


We're all under the corporate cosh about the cost of printing. Not a week goes by without yet another email telling us that our print-outs are being monitored and Questions Will Be Asked if usage is deemed excessive.

Which makes it all the more galling that the Chief Executive's secretary has sent the documentation for the Corporate Directorate meeting and told her that they'll need ten copies of each document so there'll be enough to go round.

Missed matinee

Bugger. I've missed the fun (delayed train: badgers at Umpty). The Gods descended and preceded their meeting by having a tour of the premises with T.Aldous strewing their paths with rose petals.

"You'd have lost your breakfast," says Sybil.

T.Aldous met them at the appointed hour and guided them down to the management floor. Well, those that arrived at the appointed place at the appointed hour. He then went up and fetched the misplaced waifs that had been shepherded towards the precincts of the library by a couple of shopping centre security guards. He also brought along some guy who came over and introduced himself with: "Hi, my name's Bob."

"I think I was supposed to know who is was, and the others seemed to know him so I brought him along just in case. I didn't know him from Adam," T.Aldous told me later.

The meeting room had been kitted out for the six people T.Aldous had been told were coming so there was a bit of a scramble to get another three chairs. Even so, those of us in the other ranks are still wondering why they couldn't have gone into the small meeting room and allowed us to hold the weekly ESOL sessions in the big room as usual. The ESOL class has been told to use the chapel community room on Bendemere Street today. We're looking forward to some of the students turning up anyway to remind the council's directors what "customer focus" actually means.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009



"I've given up hope for Lent."

Vegetable plot

Frog's been doing a class visit at St. Barrabas' Primary School. Partway through his telling the kids a story, a head pops round the door.

"Have we only the one turnip?"

Asks the teacher.

(It turns out that in the past whenever they told the story of The Giant Turnip they wasted a lot of time explaining what a turnip is, so they've invested in the visual aids.)


It gets a bit wearisome taking 'phone calls for T.Aldous. Where has he got to now? He's gone upstairs to water the plants in the meeting room...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dumber than a bag of wet mice

"This is all getting a bit silly now, isn't it?" asks Bronwyn. "I mean, we needed to do a World Book Day display but the rest is getting a bit out of hand."

"Himself's been upstairs telling staff to tidy up the booksale books," says Salome. "'It's the first thing they'll see when they come in,' he says."

"Jesus," I reply. "If that's the first thing we're showing them what does that say about the service?"

"Do you think he'll show them that we've got a choice of milk and that we've got a clock which is really convenient because it tells people when to go up to staff the counter?" asks Frog.

My, how we laughed.

(This is the 2,000th entry in this blog. May the Good Lord save us all!)


Maisie made the mistake of going in to ask Mary to sign an order when she was in one of her even-tighter-than-a-duck's-arse-than-usual moods.

"Do we really need two dozen bottles of hand wash?" asks Mary. "Ring round the libraries and find out which ones need them."

So Maisie's spent all afternoon ringing round the libraries to find out which ones need them.

Which is why she's ordering twenty-five bottles of hand wash.

Waiting for the vaulting horse

Bronwyn's put her foot down.

She and Frog have been doing some displays in the library (entirely coincidental with, well you'll get my drift). There are a couple of stuffed toys that Mary hates with a vengeance so they've been sure to include them in one display.

Bronwyn has, however, drawn the line at including copies of The Colditz Story, The Wooden Horse and The Tunnel in the World Book Day display. We sneaked them in twice and she sneaked them right back out again.


More set-dressing for the Corporate Directorate's visitation...

Sat at my desk doing what they pay me for I heard a lot of scuffling and rummaging just round the corner. I looked round and there was T.Aldous, rearranging the rubbish in one of the bins so that it didn't detract from the artistic excellence of the visioning board.

Glancing away, I caught Maybelle's eye. She had the most graphically-epxpressive "what the fuck?!?" expression I've ever seen written right across her face. We both spent the following five minutes biting pencils as we worked so that we didn't laugh out loud.


If you ever wonder why we never come to anything: Policy Team spent half hour last night discussing lettering that they're printing out onto A4 paper and cutting out to go who knows where, presumably in preparation for the visitation by Corporate Directorate.

The lettering has now retreated back into their room and probably will now never see the light of day again.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Kinder, kinder, kinder...

'phone call from Catty Library.

"Has the new girl got a more powerful password than the rest of us?"

"No. It's a copy of the password I use as a template for all of you."

"Are you sure?"


"That's all right then."


Their children's library statistics should be better than they are.


There's a bit of a panic on within Policy Team because Corporate Directorate is coming over for a meeting at the end of the week, so we must look our best and all have clean collars and well-scrubbed faces.

One particular cause of concern is the visioning board, which horribly accurately demonstrates that we have no vision whatever. Mary promptly prints out some PowerPoint slides sent to us by the Corporate Change Team, or whatever they're called this week, and Doreen is given the job of sticking them up on the board.

"I'm not doing it until after closing time," she protests, "people will just laugh at me!"

Zeuxis was not a comic artist

Someone's been busy over the weekend. The visioning board, which otherwise remains blank, now has a Picasso signature in the corner.

Friday, February 20, 2009

You would be liaible to imprisonment if captured, but your friends could claim your clothes and chest

Been out and about today. Had lunch with a colleague from elsewhere and compared notes. As is too often usual, the stories are depressingly familiar. To be honest, it started to get me down a bit:

"I thought you were doing all sorts of clever things to change the way you worked at your place," I protested.

"Oh we have. And now we've done that it's back to business as usual with fucking big boots on."

"We all go through this nonsense," I sighed, "does anything ever change anywhere?"

"Besides the pay cuts?"

"Besides the pay cuts."

"Actually, we have got one change."

"Oh yes?"

"Yes. Any member of staff has a clever idea they can email it to our leadership team for to be looked at. Improves efficiency no end."

"Better ways of working?" I asked hopefully.

"It saves the buggers having to hunt the good ideas down before killing them stone dead. We send them to the execution chamber directly."

On the way back I'm appalled that the only difference between us is that he's actually done this analysis.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Digging in

Bronwyn's trying to avoid the usual last-minute panic buy of any old stock that's on the shelves at the suppliers at the end of the financial year. She reckons, sensibly, that the targets that have been set are pretty irrelevant as they're arbitary numbers decided upon by Policy Team without taking into account how many libraries would be closed for months on end. If we hit the government's targets we'll be OK, she says.

This is a brave stance to take in the face of an irrational Policy Team. At some stage one, other or both of us will point out that we don't issue hundreds of books in a panic to each of our borrowers in the last two weeks of March, nor less frog march tens of thousands of people past our visitor counters. If we don't take action about the statutory targets we don't meet, why spend lots of money on stock that we don't want to over-achieve one of the ones that we do?

Eye opener

Passing by Catty Library I am astonished to see a dirty great banner saying: "Big Booksale Here!!!" It occurs to me to wonder how, if we can manage this feat of advertising, we never did similar for The National Year of Reading.

Then I remember our service priorities.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tapping the admiral

Spent this morning at Dutch Bend Library. It was dead quiet, which is something I'd already picked up from its performance stats.

They've never really recovered from having the staff from Catty Library dumped on them with nothing to do for nearly all last year. A typical bit of library management: you or I would have taken the opportunity to free staff up for training and/or doing additional activities and events in the library; all those things we keep saying we can't do because we haven't got the staff. Julia had nothing planned, which is precisely what they did. Stuck at a loose end, the staff got in each other's way, got on each other's nerves and in the end Daisy and Lettie found themselves spending more time managing the consequences than they were keeping on top of the daily 'to do' list. The results were inevitable but it's still a shock to see it in real life.

And the more shocking because I know that staff here have made three no-cost suggestions for trying to turn things round and all have been vetoed recently by Policy Team.

"It's like some forgotten outpost of a lost civilsation," says Edith, one of the Assistants.

"What's Julia doing about it?" I asked optmistically.

"We've not seen her since Christmas. Mind you, she always knows when somebody's moved something on her desk."

I'm the sort of man who takes a shit behind an oak tree

Poncey as it sounds, I've concluded that I'm at a disadvantage to my colleagues because I don't have somebody like me to talk to. I don't mean the part of me that's a whiny no-hoper, God knows they're legion. I mean the part that can listen to a problem, put it into perspective and then try and make a fist of retrieving something positive out of the mess. There have been a few occasions lately where that's been precisely what I've needed and both me and my work have suffered as a consequence.

I'll have to start talking to myself.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The doctor said that he was dead and might not walk again

Sibyl's made the mistake of looking up one of our local author's website. The author is a "lifestyle doctor to the stars," sometimes turning up on the morning graveyards of daytime television. Typically for a native of Helminthdale, none of the stars he's pictured with have appeared on TV in twenty years and we're convinced a couple of them are dead. A small crowd has gathered round her desk to coo in unison:

"Look at the state of him!"

Lippy is sat in her corner of the empire giggling like a loon. One of the old dears on the housebound library run has given her some chocolates and she isn't coping well with the sugar rush.

Frog sits in his corner talking to a tatty old puppet that used to be a hippopotamus. Rather disconertingly, it appears to be talking back to him.

T.Aldous and Mary are talking about milk bottles, and have been this past fifteen minutes.

Maudie's sat at her desk updating the finance system. Every twenty seconds or so she says:

"Oh dear..."

Working in here is an education. It's certainly given me an insight into what to expect when the time comes for me to go into a nursing home.

I can visualise the cartoon for this

Lots of brass for this one. (Tune after HMHB)

I find them cluttering the stairs
And corners where nobody cares.
They fill that office over there.
They're even underneath my chair.

Any space that's going spare.
That meeting room we only share.
And while I stifle all my screams
Frequently they're in my dreams...

Tatty booksale books.
Tatty booksale books.

Coming to the library
What's the first thing that you see?
Orange-boxed in serried rows,
Where they come from no-one knows.

Becalmed, bewildered and bemired,
Ageing bookstock looking tired.
Testament to lending vice.
Pages stained with something nice.

Tatty booksale books.
Tatty booksale books.


Tatty booksale books.
Tatty booksale books.

In the halls and by the walls
And where the friendly postman calls;
Tatty booksale books.
Tatty booksale books.

Every day, in every bay
And they just won't go away.
Tatty booksale books.
Tatty booksale books.

For miles and miles and miles
They are stacked in messy piles
Tatty booksale books.
Tatty booksale books.

Or else sometimes when we can
They'll be in the library van.
Tatty booksale books.
Tatty booksale books.

Where once there may be ten
There'll be twice as much again.
Tatty booksale books.
Tatty booksale books.

And I turn away and flee,
Thinking: "they'll not follow me."
Tatty booksale books.
Tatty booksale books.

And they go on and on and on...

Tatty booksale books.
Tatty booksale books.

Drapery of the Gods

I told the Acq. Team and Sybil about Ken Barmy's library going down the same "visioning the library" route as us.

"I'll bet they've not got a visioning board," says Sibyl.

"As it happens, yes they have," I reply.

"It won't be as big as ours," says Betty.

"I'm not going to get competitive about it," I respond. (Especially now I know that Ken's whiteboard is twice as big as The World's Biggest Whiteboard.)

"What's our lot actually going to do with that board?" asks Noreen.

"I'll bet Kevin and Frog can soon decorate it!" says Sibyl.

"We are specifically leaving it alone," I say. "Just to make the point."

"Well, they're going to have to do something with it," says Noreen. "Perhaps some curtains. Somthing nice and heavy, velvet with tassels. That would do the trick."

"Just like at the pictures!" says Sibyl.

"And with a safety curtain," agrees Noreen.

Time was I had the monopoly on taking the piss out of Policy Team.

Monday, February 16, 2009

And all because the lady loves rubber knickers

Sybil's looking wrecked. Serves her right, really: she went to see Ken Dodd at the Bencup Astoria on Saturday night and didn't take the proper precautions. We warned her not to drink anything for a day beforehand to to carry a knapsack filled with Kendal Mint Cake but she wouldn't listen.

"Five and a half hours!" she says, "half one we got home!"


"Don't get me wrong: he was great. But I'm dead knackered now and I'll bet they'll be wanting me to cover on the enquiry desk."

Give the man his due, he gives value for money!

Friday, February 13, 2009

If you multiply a gallon of pitch by a quart of periwinkles, what is the result?

For most of the past year Salome's been the sole Assistant Librarian for this half of the borough: no provision's been made for replacing Bronwyn now she's Book Sale Coordinator (despite her having spent last Spring being made to work a four-month notice period!); Lola's maternity leave wasn't covered; and to make things worse, one of the Counter Supervisors' posts has been vacant for a year. So things have slipped a bit.

It's made even worse because she's also been asked to take a lead on a couple of pieces of work. She's also been asked to work with me on part of the web site project, which is frustrating because I know she'd have useful input but we both know that she's not got time or space to do much about it.

Just to twist the knife a bit, T.Aldous is now in a bate because there is a pile of boxes in a meeting room that's going to be used for a corporate directorate meeting in March. Some of the boxes are the stock that wouldn't fit when Doreen got rid of a pile of shelving in 2007. Some is stock from Noddy and Glass Road that the librarians from Catty and Umpty should have dealt with but sent to Helminthdale last year. And some is the result of Mary's sending a memo to all libraries a couple of weeks ago telling them to send their old books for Catty Library's Big Book Sale to Helminthdale because Catty Library insisted there wasn't room for any of it there.

T.Aldous has told Salome to get her finger out and get them sorted. Salome was marginally more polite than I would have been.

Get more roomy boots

Every year we have a statutory obligation to add 50,000 new books to our lending library collections. Just like we have had every year for the past decade. We also don't have infinitely elastic walls so common sense dictates that we have to remove a similar amount of tatty old stock and/or get more people to borrow more of the stuff in decent condition. Professional librarians wouldn't need to be told that very often, would they? They'd get on and do something, they wouldn't spend all year bleating that 'all these new books keep coming in and there just isn't the room for any of it in my library' now would they?

Would they?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Exploding spiders and how to make them

T.Aldous is having to speak to the Spadespit Civic Society, who are up in arms at the prospect of Spadspit Library moving into a new Community Centre, also housing a clinic, a community arts venue and a learning suite. Complaints include:

"Why will there only be 48 parking spaces? They'll all be taken up by library staff." (There are two staff in this library)

"People won't want to borrow books when they're waiting to see the doctor."

"People won't want to use the library if it's full of people wanting to go to the clinic."

"There isn't any vandalism at the existing library any more: we've got a new skateboard park in Milkbeck." (Yes there is. And Milkbeck is four miles away, the other side of the reservoir.)

T.Aldous is quite sanguine about the silly stuff as he's checked with me and he knows that the two people making sensible noises are also the only two who are members of the library in the first place.

Resource management

In a nutshell:

"I've got somebody from Human Resources on the 'phone wanting to know how many people work for the Library Service," says Maisie.

"It's not as simple as all that," says T.Aldous.

Calendar tricks

"You need to change that piece on the web site," says T.Aldous, "it's very confusing. It says: 'Catty Library Opening, February 11th 2009.' The opening's in a few weeks. People will find that very confusing."

The piece says:

11th February 2009
Catty Library Opening
Thursday February 26th February sees the official re-opening of Catty Library ...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It was raining and the horse was tired

Just when you think you've had the lot for one week some pillock decides to carry his bike up five flights of stairs so that he can ride it round the reference library.


Frog and I are trying to forget that we've bumped into the pile of Chatterbooks boxes in the corner.

"Aren't they all too old to go on the shelves?" I ask.

"It's not the books themselves, just the goodies. I can't remember what's in them: probably flash reading cards featuring Titch and Quackers," replies Frog.

"Not many, are there?"

"These are just the samples. I live in fear of some Herbert ordering a batch of them and not telling me about it until they arrive in the doorway."

"Shouldn't we cover them up?"

"I'll find a blanket."

The Northern Lights are calling me, but I can't say what 'cos this is a family blog

God, is it only Tuesday? I've been Thursday tired all week.

Today's nonsense is carrier bags. We're not allowed to have Library Service carrier bags so we had to blag a load off Sheep City for a reader development event last night. All we could get off T.Aldous was: "Make sure that people know that this is the Library Service doing this, not Sheep City!" Like we've not got the name and logo plastered onto everything that doesn't move, and some that do, already.

Luckily we got funding to pay for a guest speaker, who Frog got on the cheap via contacts with the children's library group.

"That's very expensive,"

says Mary, who can't see a pot of money without underspending it by 80%.

Monday, February 09, 2009

On hearing the first cuckoo of spring

"The box fairy brought them," says Noreen.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Flowers in the rain

Verity's unimpressed. She's just accompanied Julia to a meeting about the new health centre which will be abutting Catty Library.

"They spent an hour deciding which pictures of flowers they were putting on which door."


"They want to put pictures of daisies on one, tulips on another and daffodils on another. That way nobody will know you're going into the clap clinic."

"You jest!"

"It's not like they won't all cotton on to it: within a week they'll know it's daisies for VD. How ridiculous!"

Saving face

We're going to be doing something constructive at the Spring Into Healthy Living event at Umpty.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Jack Frost nipping at your nose

Staring out of the staff room window I'm struck by the magical transformation effected by the snow we've had today. The pavement oysters and fag packets and pre-owned chicken Chow Meins of the townsfolk are hidden beneath a fluffy dove grey blanket. Yet again I'm struck by winter's potential to reveal the potential beauty of the place.

A thirty-foot glacier should do the trick.


We're selling the old shelving from Carbootsale Library to the Children's Resource Centre in Cattermole Street. The library's closed while we have the builders in so Verity had to go over special to let the CRC people in last Wednesday and wasn't best pleased when they didn't show up. They were then going over last Friday to 'spend all day moving the shelves over to the centre' but got bored after half an hour and toddled off.

Maisie took a 'phone call this morning.

"Is T.Aldous there please?"

"Sorry, he's not. He's got a meeting first thing so will probably be going straight there."

"Can you get a message to him before his meeting?"

"I'm pretty sure I can't."

"That's a shame. It's really important he hears about this before the meeting: the builders have put all the shelving in the skip with the plumbing rubble."

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Health and Henry Hall

Mary's deeply put out.

The Library Service has been invited to participate in a Spring Into Healthy Living event at Umpty Conference Centre in March. We could do a display about the huge wealth of healthy living information we have in our libraries. We could boast about the work we've been doing with the local Health Service Trust to make health services more easily accessible, and to even deliver some of them within our libraries. We could make a pile of healthy living and self-help books available on the day. We could encourage people to get a bit of exercise and walk down the road to Umpty Library to receive a big smile and lots of library services.

Or we could decide we're doing a Teddy Bear's Picnic and then sulk because a nursery school beat us to the offer three weeks ago.

Chairs XII

My God, is it that time of the year already?

Doreen and Julia have spent half an hour badgering Maisie about ordering themselves some new chairs.

Soon be lilac time.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


You know how it is...

There's a networked laser printer in the secretary's office for confidential printing. And there's this multi-functional device in the open office that only accepts print jobs from the network after they've completed a long sea voyage around the Maldives. And then there's people who won't print to the laser printer because the multi-functional device 'prints better.' And those of they who choose to print out the minutes of a meeting about rationalising caretaking cover when they're working on their own late at night and eventually have to go home after the sixth nasty 'phone call from their spouse. And the caretaker who comes in next morning and wonders who left a big printer on all night.

But you're ahead of me, aren't you?

Green shoots of recovery

Spring is on the way...

...after three months of lean pickings for the Acq. Team there are now sixty-two boxes waiting for them to deal with in the fire escape corridor.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Jenna of the Jungle

Judging by the number of pot plants being put on that shelf unit over there it must be staying where it is for at least a week, then.

Winter wonderland

It's snowing a bit. Not lots and lots and lots, just a bit. We've all got our noses pressed to the windows like puppies at the pet shop.

Will they send us home?

Not much of a hope. Helminthdale Library Service has a 'we never close' attitude that thinks the Windmill Theatre had a dilettante attitude to opening hours. The Town Hall was sent home two hours ago. There's only us and Marks and Spencers open: we keep popping into each other's to give us something to do. There isn't even the lunchtime charabanc of old biddies to clutter up the aisles by the empty sandwich shelves.

We could well have been told that we've been told to go home, but
  • If it was sent by email doubtless T.Aldous' email "isn't working" as per usual.
  • If the message is relayed by 'phone not only is his 'phone put through to Maisie but she can't pass any messages on to him because he's made it clear he's in conference.

The boiler's blown a fuse at Seanbean Library and they're having to make do by burning book sale items. Luckily, Beryl's a trained fur trapper, having spent six months eating flapjack and beans by the Great Bear Lake as part of her work experience with the Women's Institute.

The Blue Peter rabbit was the only witness

Quite some time ago we had a celebrity visitation which I tried to turn into an opportunity for the Library Service to get a nice discount from one of our suppliers in return for a good PR photo. Unfortunately, despite my begging that somebody take some pictures, the photo opportunity wasn't taken (I couldn't do it myself because I'd been drafted to show the celebrity the reference librarians' computers). Ah well, yet another opportunity gone begging...

I recently asked if anyone had any photos of the library for the web site. Lo and behold...

I'm not bitter.

Loxley Lozenge

Good news: The mobile library van has passed its MOT

Bad news: That means they didn't notice the holes in the floor that have been covered over with cardboard